« AnteriorContinuar »
angel of the covenant,” the Lord Jesus Christ. For we cannot conceive any lower, or created, being, assuming this air and language of supreme authority, “ Only the word that I shall speak unto thee, that thou shalt speak.” Balaam then had at length a free permission to go, as he desired, for we do not consider the command, “ Only the word that I shall speak unto thee, that thou shalt speak," as a condition, but as an obligation, from which Balaam could not escape, that he was, in fact, as much compelled to utter the words, supernaturally put into his mouth, as the trumpet is obliged to give sound to the notes which are blown into it. Balaam went, therefore, hand-tied and tongue-tied, unable to speak what he desired, and therefore equally unable to merit the honours and the rewards for which he pined : and the whole remainder of his history presents to us the sad and melancholy picture of a hardened and covetous heart, with a shrewd and enlightened head, struggling, but vainly struggling, against the power of Omnipotence.
36. And when Balak heard that Balaam was come, he went out to meet him unto a city of Moab, which is in the border of Arnon, which is in the utmost coast.
37. And Balak said unto Balaam, Did I not earnestly send unto thee to call thee? wherefore camest thou not unto me ? am I not able indeed to promote thee to honour ?
38. And Balaam said unto Balak, Lo, I am come unto thee : have I now any power at all to say anything? the word that God putteth in my mouth, that shall I speak.
39. And Balaam went with Balak, and they came unto Kirjah-huzoth.
40. And Balak offered oxen and sheep, and sent to Balaam, and to the princes that were with him.
41. And it came to pass on the morrow, that Balak took Balaam, and brought him up into the high places of Baal, that thence he might see the utmost part of the people.
We have here the meeting between Balak and Balaam, which, so far as under his peculiar circumstances any earthly distinctions would avail to do so, must have gratified the prophet. But his mind was far too much enlightened with regard to his precise position, to permit him to entertain much hope of the proffered honours : “ Have I any power at all to say anything ?” is his mortifying inquiry.
“ When a man's ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him," and may we not add, When a man's ways are displeasing unto the Lord even his friends cannot help him. Such was the case with Balaam; Balak boasted, that he had power to
promote him to honour, but the prophet might have truly answered, Thou canst have no power at all respecting me, except it be given thee from on high. So essential is it, that the blessing of God should be the first thing sought in all that we undertake, that“ all our works may be begun, continued and ended in God;" for so only can we expect that their progress shall be prosperous, and their result successful.
NUMBERS xxiii. 1-12.
1. And Balaam said unto Balak, Build me here seven altars, and prepare me here seven oxen and seven
2. And Balak did as Balaam had spoken : and Balak and Balaam offered on every altar a bullock and a ram.
3. And Balaam said unto Balak, Stand by thy burnt offering, and I will go : peradventure the Lord will come to meet me : and whatsoever he sheweth me I will tell thee. And he went to an high place.
4. And God met Balaam : and he said unto him, I have prepared seven altars, and I have offered upon every altar a bullock and a ram.
5. And the Lord put a word in Balaam's mouth,
and said, Return unto Balak, and thus thou shalt speak.
6. And he returned unto him, and lo, he stood by his burnt sacrifice, he, and all the princes of Moab.
We have here the account of the first effort made by Balaam in the service of his new master; he is not content with one altar and a single sacrifice, but asks at once for seven bullocks, seven rams, and seven altars? He is resolved that if he fail, it shall, at least, not be from any want of extravagance nd grandeur in his offerings; and as they were to be made at the expense of another, this was not a difficult or an unnatural piece of liberality on the part of the covetous prophet. It is quite clear that Balaam fully hoped to be no loser by this expenditure, for the first thing he says, when he meets with the Almighty, is, “ I have prepared seven altars, and I have offered upon every altar a bullock and a ram.” The Almighty condescends not to notice his worse than contemptible offerings, for the word of God has declared, “ The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,” and he therefore proceeds at once to desire Balaam to return to Balak, and adds, “ Thus thou shalt speak.” There was no choice, no opportunity for the prophet to add or to diminish aught of the sentence entrusted to him ; he was compelled to be the herald of his own discomfiture and disgrace, and where he would most cordially and most eagerly have hurled his curse, there he was obliged to bestow his blessing.
7. And he took up his parable, and said, Balak the king of Moab hath brought me from Aram, out of the mountains of the east, saying, Come, curse me Jacob, and come, defy Israel.
8. How shall I curse, whom God hath not cursed ? or how shall I defy, whom the Lord hath not defied ?
9. For from the top of the rocks I see him and from the hills I behold him : lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations.
10. Who can count the dust of Jacob, and the number of the fourth part of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his !
11. And Balak said unto Balaam, What hast thou done unto me? I took thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold, thou hast blessed them altogether.
12. And he answered and said, Must I not take heed to speak that which the Lord hath put in my mouth ?
How wonderful and beautiful a prophecy was this of the remarkable fate of Israel! “ The people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations." From that day even to the present hour it has never been falsified; for centuries, Israel dwelt distinctly, separate, and alone; her city and her temple, “ the joy of the whole earth;" her warriors, her